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October 09, 2007


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Andrew R.

Well, I'd kind of like to see some stuff on medieval Armenia. Like you were noting about other peoples' history books, I mainly know about Armenia as the state between the Greeks and various Caliphates (and Outremer). I know precious little about Armenia itself during that period (say, about 600 to 1300).


Ross Bagdasarian was the songwriter with the piano in the upper righthand apartment in Rear Window.

And now you know the REST of the story.

Noel Maurer

Back in the ancient times of the 1980s, I was surprised to hear news reports of fighting inside the Soviet Union. So, what exactly stopped Gorbachev from cracking everybody's heads together earlier? I can guess, obviously, but it'd be nice to know.

Noel Maurer

Yeah, and Armenian music videos. Better still, Armenian hip-hop music videos. You mean to tell me that there's no Armenian hip-hop? I believe you not, Doug. There's /always/ hip-hop.

Will Baird

Yes, more history! Learning far off lands' and people's history is a good thing, Doug.



Armenian hit of the year 2006. The producer blogs at cilicia.com. (Before you ask, they're all Armenian. The comments on the boards are very ellipsis interesting.)

Tony Zbaraschuk

I'd love to hear more about Armenia!

Noel Maurer

Carlos: wow. That's ... awful. But oddly gripping. Is it the Beverly Hills vibe? The blingosity? The baseball jersey offering homage to some cross between the Boston Red Sox and the Brooklyn Dodgers? The way the lyrics don't quite match the beat, but don't quite miss it, and don't quite go grime?

"Hicky com ba boog zeo zeo wish ka. Hayg!" Or some such.

It is awesome in its badness. It deserves a blog post. After all, in the early 21st century you simply can't understand a country without understanding its hip-hop.


My mistake -- _this_ is the one which was Armenia's 2006 Hit of the Year. It's a little more, um, Eurovision:


Full H.A.Y.Q., not just featuring. (That sound you hear is Doug's eyes rolling at the implications of the group's name.)

Hip-hop's transmission to Armenia was likely through California diasporids, which I think explains the Beverly blingosity.

Different style of female objectification: midriffs! Also, less (ahem) Kardashian influence and more wholesome Aniston influence.


oh, gosh. I hope the black-eyed peas & old Ferg aren't shaking in their boots over that competition. whoa.


I've thought about this a lot: why do some groups of people innovate, and why do others imitate? sure, in this case, you have an international style, hip-hop, but almost by definition this particular style allows room for vernacular development.

I think I know why once innovative groups stop innovating: the idea 'space' gets filled up, and needs to be re-analyzed. Modernism made this explicit. And the initial innovations are almost always connected to a tight cluster of linked individuals. But why in one place and not another?

Noel Maurer

That's an interesting idea. I don't know the answer. Hip-hop seems like a good laboratory. More thoughts?

I'll admit, the Armenian group's name is ... different. Sort of like a Mexican band calling it self the Guadalupe Virgins --- I can't see it.


we-ell, it's sort of like Afrika Bambaataa. But not. OT3H, it's hard to pinpoint exactly _why_ not.

Dennis Brennan

This is apparently going to be a big week in the U.S. for interest in Armenian history.

Noel Maurer

D'oh! I shoulda thought a that before posting. Ni modo. Enjoy the friviolity.

Say, why does Armenia's flag look like an upside-down version of the Granadino countries? I mean, the world is that short of clever tricolor combinations?


The ineducamable on the unspeakable. (I really have to get that book on Oscar Wilde's tour of Texas.)

Michael Jackson once stood on the Ceaucescu balcony of the Palace of the People, in front of a roaring crowd of Romanians, and said, "Hello, Budapest!"


That used to really piss my wife off. Hungarians don't like hearing they're at all confusable with Romanians. Or Romulans.

But after the first decade of Hoosiers asking, "Hungary? Do they have their own language there?" I guess that part of her brain burned out. Ha.

Noel Maurer

The president was for recognizing the genocide before he was against it.

And while I'm snarking ... did anyone here /watch/ the Republican debate on the economy? At least you know Mitt Romney is merely lying. The others, Sweet Mary.

Bernard, don't vote for the GOP. I know you love your children.


Watch the debate? Noel, that's like asking whether I bathed in acid. Why in the world would I watch Republicans debate? Except in the train-wreck-watching sense, I guess.

All they're doing is establishing their bona fides, so when they lose they can claim that it was because of the oppressive liberal hate machine that won't let well-meaning white men succeed.

Doug M.

Wow, comments.

@ Carlos, innovation and idea space: I have some thoughts on this, but they're broad and vague and should probably be hammered into a proper post. First response, though: while ideaspace is part of it, there's also a first mover issue. Ideaspace is an endless series of empty continents, but some groups are given boats. There are incumbency and institutional effects; if the world's largest music industry were based in Belgrade instead of L.A., kolo dancing would be a lot more important than it is.

Of course, this line of inquiry quickly leads to using the word "privilege" as a transitive verb, or indeed a gerund. Which, not so good.

@Noel: the Armenian flag is the Romanian flag turned sideways, except that Romania's is red-blue-bright yellow, and the Armenian yellow is more of an orangey-peach.

Yeah, apparently a shortage of good tricolors. I mean, how many primary colors are there? Not too many countries want to use purple or orange or brown, so really you're talking red, white, blue, yellow, black and green. That gives 20 combinations, or 40 if mirror-image, 80 if you turn them sideways and go with horizontal. Without checking, I'll guess that pretty much all those eighty are taken.

(Going to a quadcolor doesn't work -- for some reason, on a standard sized flag, this looks hideous. Only one country has done it AFAIK.)

Doug M.

Randy McDonald

Yeah, apparently a shortage of good tricolors. I mean, how many primary colors are there?"

Newfoundlanders' unofficial flag is a pink-white-green tricolour.

Dennis Brennan

And under the traditional rules of heraldry, the stripe in the middle had to be either white or yellow because of the whole metal-on-metal and color-on-color principles. That narrows down the choices even further.

Red-white-blue-yellow-black-green. Sounds almost Olympic, eh?

Noel Maurer

Yeah, Doug, we need more comments. Like, yours. Posts too. (Insert glyph of wagging finger.)

OK, there's a shortage of good tricolors.

In which case, why stick with them? Central America basically uses the same bicolor with different national shields. Mexico has that cool-assed eagle in the middle of its cool-assed tricolor, and where did Italy get off copying it anyway? Brazil's flag is an great non-striped design, enough to make me want to copy it. Argentina has that funky sun with the Mona Lisa grin. Uruguay riffs off Argentina in a clever way. Chile riffs off the USA in an equally-clever way. (So does Texas.) Peru a simple bicolor. Canada took the same design, added a maple leaf. (I don't think this was deliberate --- they just didn't want blue stripes, for a reason that I shouldn't mention because it doesn't speak well of Canadian self-assurance, and I /like/ Canada.) Paraguay has a Dutch-like flag, added a shield.

And California. C'mon, admit it, that's just like a totally awesome banner. Not a country, no, but that flag almost makes you wish it were.

That leaves Bolivia and the Granadino countries alone in the dumb-tricolor tradition so popular in Europe.

Go to Asia, same pattern. Afghanistan is about the only place where you'll see a tricolor, and even there it is a very cool tricolor that's officially has an equally-cool shield imposed on it. Black stripes! Word.

Plus what Dennis said --- a middle stripe other than white can't look anything but stupid. I'll grant the Russians an exception. Because they have nuclear weapons.

So I ask you, Mr. Muir, WTF is it with Europeans and the stupid tricolors? Your four-colors-don't-work hypothesis, sadly, does not explain it. What does?

And you have to answer, you know, after that "Wow, comments" quip. I also want your opinions on reggaet├│n, Trinidadian energy policy, Texas, and the quality of your breakfast.

Dennis Brennan


With apologies to Noel, they left out "Trinidad & Tobago"/"Diver down"

Dennis Brennan

Oh, and again addressing Noel:

The original version of the bad-ass Mexican eagle --
-- is different than what's on the flag in that the original omits the snake being eaten by the eagle (because Huitzilopochtli eating Quetzalcouatl wouldn't have made sense to the Aztecs). But along come the Dominicans and, poof, the symbol becomes an emblem of good triumphing over evil.


Noel Maurer

Dennis: I've noticed the diver-down thing. In fact, Amma and I both did while walking along Washington Avenue in Miami Beach. "Is that ... nah. What is that?"

That wiki website left out the Sandinista flag among red-and-black horizontal bicolors.

I didn't know that about the Mexican eagle. (Although it seems that I should have.) Neat!

Dennis Brennan

Vexillology, whee!

Noel mentioned our northern cousins and their flag. There's a story behind that...

Flags can be fun. Mozambique's has an AK-47 on it. (I think the guns on Guatemala's flag are supposed to be just non-descript rifles.)

Speaking of Mexico, I seem to recall reading an assertion by someone, it may have been P.J. O'Rourke, to the effect that the U.S./Mexico border was the international land boundary with the most dramatic contrast between the neighboring countries in terms of some measure of national wealth. Whether or not this was ever true for any meaningful economic statistic (I kind of doubt it), what would be the international boundary that has that distinction now? I would guess North Korea/South Korea (near which boundary, incidentally, is the site of one of the world's tallest flagpoles). What would the other candidates be: Spain/Morocco? Greece/Macedonia? Israel/Jordan or /Syria?


More! More! Your first two were great and has left me desperately seeking more!

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